My nineteen-year-old son is having his second tattoo etched on his skin, a quote written in Greek, a permanent testament to life, a piece of invaluable art contributing to the beauty of the world. And it makes me reflect…
Both of my arms are covered in tattoos. Both of my legs are covered in tattoos. I write and have written about tattoos and their potential place in the conversation of fine/high art. I have given interviews about tattoos in the professional field. My latest book, Raw Flesh Flash… is a poetic scrapbook about the universal narratives of tattoos and the world they thrive in. So, when my two oldest children wanted their first tattoo, I had little to no ground to say no. You would think that I would have no hesitations with them expressing themselves with one of the most unique artforms that exists today. But I did. At least, I did at first. Even someone like me, A man who praises tattoos and the tattoo world had reservations about my children etching a permanent piece of art on their skin.
I was a young pup when I received my first tattoo. I won’t say how old but young will do. Hunched over a barber’s chair, back exposed, I felt the ceaseless and rhythmic beats from the bar below. We were in Laguna Beach, California over a well-known gay bar. And the young artist pressed ink into my left shoulder blade to the rhythms of the music beneath.
The tattoo started palm-size (in my head), but my skin soaked up the gargoyle over the earth like a sponge and the tattoo ended up covered most of my shoulder blade. Truthfully, the artist convinced me that because of the details, the tattoo should be larger. Newbies, like me, tend to underestimate the necessary size of a tattoo.
Two-years later, I was washing and scrubbing my champaign Ford Ranger. I loved that truck. Anyway, on this one glorious morning, while I washed and polished my baby, my father saw my tattoo for the first time. Yikes! The collar of my shirt slightly drooped from all the laborious passion I put into cleaning my truck, and the tip of the gargoyle’s wing fluttered in the sun. My father grabbed my collar, pulled down the collar, exposing more of my tattoo, and said, “You are dumber than I thought.” Ouch!
Not one of his best moments (or mine), but we have both grown from that moment. Both my parents have tattoos at this point, and my father has a half sleeve, so I don’t have to say that his perspective has changed since that moment.
Unlike me, my son had the respect to tell his father about his decision. And he thought out the tattoo carefully. He chose an image to represent his mother in conjunction with an image that represented his love for his little sister. My first tattoo was from a T-shirt. My hesitation with his tattoo was location. Where would he put his first tattoo? And here is where my deep-rooted stereotype existed. How would the world see him if people saw his tattoo? Would he be able to reach his highest potential in a career with an exposed tattoo? And yada, yada, and yada. I guess I had a bit of my father in me as well as an antiquated way of thinking. My son ended up with a tattoo on his thigh, so I’d like to think that the placement of the tattoo was his way of representing me.
Interestingly enough, it was a conversation with my tattoo artist, Ezekiel, that made me rethink my old-fashioned biases. All it took was an exchange with a tattooed prophet to foster my family’s spirit of unity and allow me to see beyond my outdated fabricated blockades. What’s in a name? Ezekiel tattoos out of Virtuoso Tattoo, by the way. Great artist, great tattoo shop!
Anyway, I did introduce my son to EZ, which ultimately resulted in receiving his new tattoo. My oldest daughter has the saying, “...just take 3 deep breaths” on her forearm. They both are now discussing tattoos that have a narrative that match their personalities but connect them to each other. I think they are using images from the book, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I love it.
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